Our second Agreement for Communication in Community asks us to “start from an appreciative mindset.” By asking, “What is right and good here?” and “How can we build on that?,” we focus on the positive, and identify and build on our strengths. Brain research has shown that what we focus on grows, creating new pathways in our brains. Christ’s resurrection teaches us to look for new life in ways that might surprise us. Jesus’ resurrected body was different, unrecognizable and uncontrollable to the disciples. He spent 40 days with them after his resurrection so that they could learn to recognize and walk in this way of new life.
As I reflected on 2021 in preparing my annual meeting report I discovered much that is right and good, even in the midst of so much suffering, grief, and death. God is bringing new life among us, surely as the green grasses poke through the scorched earth. On this eve of Lent 2022, here are some of the places I see resurrection happening, and the enduring strengths of this community from which they spring:
- This community has loved and cared for one another for many decades, and you continue to do so. The fact that our vestry calling process revealed that small groups have been the #1 source of spiritual support during the pandemic shows this.
- 2020 and 2021 saw an exponential increase in inter-parish cooperation with our sister Episcopal Churches in the Napa Valley–which bodes well for the future!
- The gifts of online church are many: accessibility for members who travel or are home-bound, endless evangelistic opportunity, and a sense that the gathered church is always more than those physically present– online church makes us aware of a spiritual reality we cannot touch or see. Some online members have joined during the pandemic who do not even live in the Napa Valley and have donated and become active– one even rebuilt our website!
- Through the challenges and anxieties of this year, our vestry and staff have overcome fear with a prudent faith. They have taken on real leadership in our mission and vision, equipped themselves as a team to do this work, and have chosen to invest in our future.
- Deep spirituality has always been a hallmark of Grace– it was one of the things that attracted me to you. The pandemic “sent us all to our rooms” for a time, took away the externals of sanctuary and rituals, and helped many of us deepen our direct connection to God. Nadia Boltz-Weber wrote recently, “Faith that is really just a cheerful outlook sprinkled on top of an already good life may have been of help in the past, but now it’s useless… in order for it to be any real help, faith can’t be the decorations and furniture–it has to be the load bearing structure that can withstand flood and fire and global pandemics.” The crucible of 2020 and 2021 has helped forge in us such faith, alongside hope and love.
With an appreciative mindset, let’s take that faith, hope and love with us as we continue to “reconnect and renew in 2022.”
With deep peace, gratitude and love, Amy